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Jakarta anti-terror unit hit by torture claims
Publication Date : 06-03-2013
The police say they will summon members of the elite counter-terrorism squad known as Detachment 88 for questioning after a video showing suspected militants being tortured and shot was circulated over the past week, sparking outrage and calls for the unit to be disbanded.
"If the clip is proven to be an abuse of law enforcement, we will investigate to what extent violations of the suspects' human rights have occurred," said police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar.
The 14-minute video, whose origin is unknown, was shot in 2007, the police said. It spread online after being uploaded on a radical website in recent weeks.
Several Muslim leaders who saw it joined human rights activists to condemn the alleged torture at the hands of the unit.
Detachment 88, which gets funding from the United States and Australia, was formed after the 2002 Bali bomb blasts, and has been credited with crippling terror networks.
But the video has added weight to allegations it uses torture, and some concerned MPs are seeking a working committee to supervise the unit's operations.
In the video, several bare-bodied suspects are forced face down to the ground, hands bound by rope and interrogated as shots are heard in the background. Masked men in helmets with vests marked "police" are seen carrying guns.
In one instance, the clip showed a man clad only in underwear being yelled at to stand up over a ditch, but he collapsed to the ground, as the camera panned over a bleeding bullet wound on his back.
The man who was shot was identified as Wiwin, who has since been jailed for the beheading of three Christian girls in Poso in 2005. Others in the video were jailed for more than 10 years for terrorism, including bombings.
Poso was the scene of armed sectarian conflict in 2001 and from 2005 to 2006, before the situation stabilised after intense Detachment 88 operations.
Terrorists have recently tried to sow discord by targeting the police.
In October last year, two policemen searching for a camp were found with their throats slit. The camp was found abandoned a month later.
In December, three policemen on patrol were killed in a daylight ambush by over 10 militants.
The video has prompted the leaders of some mainstream groups to call for the disbandment of the unit. Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin called the incident a "gross violation of human rights".
In January, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) issued a report condemning the police for human rights violations against terror suspects in South Sulawesi.
Komnas HAM commissioner Siane Indriani said: "They've become somewhat of an untouchable elite group with no one checking on or verifying their operations."
But many also argue the unit is necessary to fight terrorism.
House Speaker Marzuki Alie told reporters: "Today is much safer compared with the past when terror attacks occurred.
"Foreigners were afraid to come to Indonesia and this greatly hurt the tourism industry. (Detachment 88) is not yet perfect in carrying out its operations, but dissolving it is not the right thing to do."
Siane said: "We don't support terrorism but we also don't support abuse of suspects not proven guilty.
"This not only hampers gathering of intelligence on terrorist networks but will erode the high level of support the unit enjoys once the public gets put off by their overzealous methods."